After the Hays High School and Liberal girls’ soccer teams played to a scoreless draw for the first hour of Thursday’s game at Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex, the Indians used a shift in approach and left with a 3-0 victory.
“We were just playing as one person,” junior Jacqui Paredes said. “We weren’t playing as a team. We weren’t making our runs. We just looked like we weren’t having fun at all.”
“It got better in the second half,” senior defender Allie Rome said. “The first half was a little rough.”
Despite controlling the possession and having a number of chances to score, the Indians were almost fortunate to enter the second half in a scoreless tie.
Liberal had the best scoring opportunity in the opening 40 minutes when Liberal freshman Gisselle Melendez found a crease in the Indian defense and controlled the ball with only the Indian goalie to beat. Senior Taylor Groen-Younger decisively left her line and thwarted the opportunity when the Liberal freshman took an extra touch.
Despite being in just her second year of high school soccer, the senior’s performance has impressed head coach Jim Maska.
“She came out beautifully, got her body where it needed to be and she snuffed the shot,” Maska said.
“Taylor has really stepped up for her second year. It’s just amazing what she’s doing.”
At the break, the Indians focused on a more team-centric approach, and it paid dividends.
“I really think they were trying to play more defensive on us, and we were trying one on four versus when we started spreading, moving the ball around, switching and all that,” Maska said, “we started getting them off balance.”
Paredes put the Indians in front just after the hour mark, volleying home a deflected corner kick from junior Sydney Sulzman.
“It felt good, especially (scoring) the first one,” Paredes said.
Minutes later, junior Sierra Brown capitalized on a strong week of practice and doubled the Hays High lead on a lofted ball to the right of the keeper.
“She had a really great practice this week and it showed,” Maska said. “She pushed, made a move and got around a girl, and she kept her head down, and boom, she found the far post.”
Liberal then made a change in goal, leading up to the Indians’ third goal of the day. Junior Talyn Kleweno won possession off a goal kick and fired from the just outside the penalty area. Her shot beat Liberal’s second keeper for the final score of the day with eight minutes to play.
The Indians’ defense was hardly tested over the final hour of the contest.
“I think we’re pretty solid as a whole,” Rome said. “There’s a few times we kinda slip up, but usually we do pretty good.”
Thursday marked the second Hays High win over Liberal. The Indians won the first game in Liberal, 2-1, after scoring a pair of goals in the first half. The offense developed a little later on Thursday, but the chances were there early had the Indians been a little more unselfish and kept their formation. Instead of keeping a tiered attack that keeps options open, some of the Indians were pressing too far forward.
“There was a huge gap,” Maska said. “Our center mid(fielders)s were pushing all the way up into our forwards.
“We made that correction in the second half, so the opportunities started creating more. We started switching the field a little bit better.”
The Indians return to Western Athletic Conference play on Friday when they host Garden City, a team that boasts quality players on both ends of the pitch.
“It’s going to take a lot to work around (their defense),” Maska said. “They’re pretty solid. I think if we just do what we can do and not give them those one or two opportunities, we’ll be fine.”
Hays High 3, Liberal 0
Liberal 0 0 — 0
Hays High 0 3 — 3
G: Paredes, Brown, Kleweno.